Smart choices save in the final wash

Canny decisions help cut the cost of a bathroom makeover.

Canny decisions help cut the cost of a bathroom makeover.

This glam bathroom is so impressive, it was a finalist in a national bathroom competition. But behind its heated travertine tiles and romantic clawfoot bath were some smart decisions that saved its owner, Margaret Watson, thousands of dollars.

In getting their Woollahra house of 25 years ready for sale, Margaret and her husband knew it needed some changes. The bathroom was one area that definitely required updating.

It had a plastic shower cubicle, a pink, sunken bath that was placed too far from its taps, and a matching pink handbasin. The look was completed with dark teak wall panels and exposed timber ceiling beams. On the floor - inexplicably - was


"It was dreadful," says Margaret, who had dreamed of creating a beach feel in the inner-east home, with sand-coloured travertine contrasted with smart white finishes.

Rather than remove the teak panelling from the walls, Margaret had it painted white. Her builder clad the exposed beams in plasterboard so they blended better with the existing ceiling. And instead of demolishing the platform that housed the sunken bath, it was retained and used to display its clawfoot replacement.

"I just laid a top on it," says Margaret, who deliberately chose not to make any structural changes to the shape of the bathroom. She did, however, steal some extra space by knocking through into an old linen press to make extra room for a large shower.

Luckily there were already French doors in place that open to a private master-bedroom terrace.

Margaret mostly kept the plumbing in its original location. Her big splurge was the clawfoot bath, which cost $1595 from Reece Plumbing, and underfloor heating.

As the renovation was done during a larger home makeover, Margaret is unsure of the exact total cost, but estimates it would have been less than $15,000. The couple are now preparing for their November 26 auction through Jeremy Clinton of Di Jones Real Estate.

For a cheaper bathroom makeover, one option is to have the tiles, tub, mirror frame and vanity resurfaced. Scott Trenberth from Prime Resurfacing says about 40 per cent of his work making over people's homes is in their bathrooms. Most clients want their baths and wall tiles resprayed. Some want the vanity and mirror done, too.

As the paints aren't really designed to go on floor tiles, Trenberth generally re-tiles over the existing flooring if the owners want to change it. "It's just a lot easier [because if you pull the old tiles up] you've got to re-waterproof and re-screed and it gets a lot more expensive that way. Whereas tile-over-tile looks exactly the same and raises it maybe 8-10mm depending on the tile."

For an average-size bathroom, the cost for Trenberth's services is about $2500-$3000. He says many customers then spend another few thousand dollars replacing the vanity, toilet and shower screen.

"We can respray vanities if people want us to - we can do the bowl, and we can do the top and the doors, but vanities are so cheap these days that you can pick one up for about the same price, so most people do tend to get a new vanity put in," he says.

Trenberth's services are in demand. "We're usually, around the year, booked out about six weeks ahead," he says.


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